You may be sure that you're ready for a dog, but are you the right kind of companion for a Labrador Retriever? To thrive, these energetic dogs require exercise, space, companionship, and good health care (can you say vet bills?).
Got the energy?
Labrador Retrievers, unlike some other dogs, require as much energy as time. If you're a certified couch potato, your Lab may adjust, but inactive dogs (like inactive people) are less healthy, and Labs that aren't provided outlets for their energy may become destructive. Labs aren't small dogs and can't get sufficient activity running back and forth across the living room like a Chihuahua.
Well-trained Labs that get sufficient exercise shouldn't be hyperactive and can certainly adapt to different levels of activity, but your Lab will need to be walked at least once a day, taken for occasional swims, and given the opportunity to do lots of retrieving, the thing they love best. If you aren't up to the physical challenge, consider a less active or smaller dog — or perhaps, a cat.
Got the space?
If you don't have the living space for a large dog, don't bring home a Labrador Retriever. The ideal situation is a single-family, detached house with a fenced yard and dog-friendly neighbors or a country home with lots of fenced land. Other situations can work, too, especially if you walk your Lab religiously and train her well. However, if your living space doesn't allow dogs or your apartment walls are paper thin, if you live in a tiny apartment with no yard and can't walk your dog every day, or if you like your home immaculate and value your collection of ceramic figurines or glassware or antique china above all else, please consider another type of dog. Labs need lots of exercise, puppies can sometimes be loud in the middle of the night, and those Lab tails can be downright destructive if your house isn't Lab-proofed.
Got the money?
Purchasing a Labrador Retriever through a breeder can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,000 (more if you want a quality show or field-trial dog). And if you do adopt a Lab from an animal shelter or through a rescue group, you may think that the dog will be cheap — even free. But the cost of acquiring a dog is insignificant compared to the cost of keeping a dog healthy and well-behaved throughout its life.
The cost of health maintenance, including vaccinations, heartworm preventive, parasite control, and regular check-ups, plus the cost of good food, a quality kennel or other enclosure, a supply of chew toys, obedience classes, trainers and/or behaviorists, and any emergency medical costs or treatment for serious health problems or accidents can add up to quite a sum. If you can barely afford groceries or medical bills for yourself and your own family, don't bring any dog, Lab or otherwise, into your home until you're on a firmer financial footing.